Suburban moms are gonna love it. I also didn’t hate it.
I hold a special place in my heart for romantic comedies starring Jennifer Lopez. Maid in Manhattan (2002) is a classic, Shall We Dance? (2004) is heartfelt, and Monster-in-Law (2005) is better than The Godfather (1972). Yeah, I said it. I love Jennifer Lopez. I think she’s cool, talented, and funny both on and offscreen. Clearly, I’m not the only one infatuated with JLo. I mean, duh, you have eyes and ears. I went to see her most recent rom-com, Second Act (2018), two weeks after it was initially released, and the theatre was packed! People were constantly shuffling into my row and as one woman passed by, she made me drop my chicken sandwich and spill sauce all over my shirt! Yes, I am now that person who orders “real” food from the Outtakes stand at Cineplex. What can I say? New year, newfound hatred of my body and commitment to making healthier choices. Speaking of new, Second Act allowed JLo to experiment with her typical rom-com formula and it was…different, let’s say that.
Second Act follows Maya Vargas, a street-smart woman whose lack of post-secondary degree keeps her stuck in a minimum-wage job. When a fabricated Facebook page leads a top cosmetics company to believe she is an accomplished Harvard graduate, Maya winds up as one of their consultants. Believing herself to possess the skills for the job, Maya keeps up the ruse as she struggles between finally having a shot at success and telling the truth.
Going into this movie, I felt a little icky. I know everyone stretches the truth when it comes to job interviews (why yes, I am proficient in Office Excel, Linda) but I was like, “wait, should I be cheering Maya on for lying to this company about her experience?” Look, maybe I’m overanalyzing what is supposed to be an hour and a half of fluffy fun, but it honestly bothered me that Maya felt she deserved a high-ranking, executive position despite never enrolling herself in college classes or working in a corporate setting. Yes, she is extremely hard-working with a natural adeptness for marketing and business, but if Donald Trump has taught us anything, it’s that people in positions of power need to have the necessary education, experience, and skills to do the best possible job. Maybe I’d be more supportive of her if this was a gritty drama where Maya was willing to do anything to support her starving children. Although at this point in her career, I think JLo is too shiny and fancy to convincingly play anybody poor or average. No, instead she’s a middle-class assistant manager who has wine nights with Leah Remini.
We need to talk about Leah Remini. I almost feel like I grew up with Leah Remini because of the countless re-runs of The King of Queens (1998 – 2007) I used to watch at my grandparents house. She was so fiercely funny and fiery. She was the real Queen of Queens because she used her magnetic personality and superb comedic timing to steal every scene from Kevin James. Although she hasn’t been in many mainstream projects recently, it was so reassuring to see that her charm and wit are as sharp as ever. With cutting comebacks and rousing pep talks to spare, Remini plays the feisty and supportive best friend everyone needs in their life. Speaking of, Remini and Lopez have an amazing chemistry together, most likely thanks to their real-life friendship. Remini delivers more on the comedy front than Lopez, but they still play off each other in a way that only real friends can. I love seeing these two together, but I think their effortless chemistry would have been much better utilized in a brazen, outrageous, Paul Feig comedy. Oh my God, a buddy-cop action movie like The Heat (2013) or Spy (2015) would be PERFECT for them. If she could spare a minute from saving the world from Scientology, I would love to see Remini in more movies.
For the most part, Second Act is a comedy that plays on the hilarity of Maya being thrust into the fast-paced and competitive business world while keeping her real life a secret. Her co-workers at the new job are a supporting cast of fresh-faced actors like Charlyne Li and Alan Aisenberg, who endearingly commit to the wacky sidekick roles. Also, the always enjoyable Vanessa Hudgens stars as a rival executive who is always dressed like she’s about to do a photoshoot. Sidenote, all of the outfits in this movie are stunning.
Add in Milo Ventimiglia as Maya’s loving, if not unfortunately-mustached, boyfriend, and you’ve got a great cast ready to deliver the best of romance and comedy. Where the movie suffers however, is the script. Anytime a movie starts out by piling on the expositional dialogue, I get nervous. Expositional dialogue can really diminish the positive elements in a movie and Second Act comes dangerously close to overusing its exposition. Thankfully, viewers are often rewarded for sitting through the exposition-fest with one of the movie’s few laugh out loud jokes. Overall, both the plot and the dialogue feel slightly dated. The jokes are plentiful and while most land, many feel stale. Many elements of this movie, from humour, to plot, to characters, dangerously drift into “been there, done that,” territory. The cast is talented and the movie shows enormous promise, but what stops it from reaching its full comedic potential are the tired jokes and the overly dramatic subplot. These halt whatever upward momentum Second Act manages to build.
Right, the subplot. For the sake of spoilers, I wont go into too much detail. I wont say it’s a twist, but it’s definitely a reveal and I’d hate to be the loud-mouth blogger who ruined the reveal for you. Just know that it’s…a choice. A choice that didn’t necessarily need to be made. As I said, it not only slows down the movie every five minutes it’s brought up, but drastically changes the tone of the movie which I didn’t appreciate. I almost feel cheated, like I bought a ticket for one movie, and ended up seeing a totally different one. The dramatic storyline should have been eliminated completely so that the movie could focus on being a full-on, outrageous, comedy. Again, if Paul Feig had been the director, this would have been one of the top comedies of the year. Maybe not in the top 10, but definitely like, 13 or 14.
You can’t really hate a Jennifer Lopez rom-com. Some lean towards the more dramatic side, and others embrace the outrageousness, but they’re all silly, cheesy fun that you can’t help smiling at. I genuinely laughed out loud multiple times. Though certainly not her best, Second Act is still an adequate romp that’s sure to pleasantly entertain fans of Lopez, as well as the average movie-goer. Watch it at home with wine and your close friends. The ones who can easily shift from genuinely hoping that Maya makes something of herself, to laughing at how ridiculous it is that she has a full face of makeup for baking, jogging, and drying herself off after falling into a lake. Yep. If watching movies on the W channel were still a thing, I would definitely half-watch the last 45 minutes of Second Act while I fold my laundry.
Have you seen Second Act? Are you a Jennifer Lopez fan?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!